Where are we now?
Stephen D. Bernstein, Principal
Cline Bettridge Bernstein
Lighting Design (CBBLD)

Stephen Bernstein

In response to recent events raising questions around the visibility of the architectural lighting design industry, illumni + Monica Llamas asked some the world’s top lighting practitioners how they feel the industry is perceived today both by peers in the wider design community and the public and what needs to be done in future to progress the way lighting designers’ contributions to architecture, wellbeing, the environment and more can be better appreciated. The answers are very thought provoking. 

To what extent do you think architectural lighting design is understood as a profession and valued by our collaborative partner industries and the wider community today? (e.g. architects, clients, government, urban planners)

For the most part, I think that our collaborators understand the very positive impact that architectural lighting design can have on a project. As lighting requirements become more complicated – for example, meeting energy codes creatively, understanding the challenges of designing with LEDs,  specifying they myriad of controls now available and necessary by code – we become increasingly important in ensuring a project’s success.

How often do you find yourself educating new clients and design partners about the role of lighting designers and advocating the value of lighting design (e.g. scope of brief, timing of being brought into design conversations)? 

In the past, we often found ourselves answering the question, “why use a lighting designer?” Now the conversation has shifted to us explaining how best to use a lighting designer. Communication is key here. We can do our best work when a client understands our role, what we bring to the table, and the “big picture” of how to integrate our work into theirs.

The earlier we get involved, the better:  we can help to establish budgets, or may suggest changes to the architecture to create lighting opportunities. Collaborations work best when clients understand that we play an active role in the design process, and that as a project evolves, we need to be informed of changes, even those that appear small. For example, if a wall finish is changed from honed to polished, this in turn will have a major impact on how we would light it.

The increasing prevalence of LED technology presents its own concerns – and a seasoned lighting designer is equipped with the knowledge to address these issues. LED fixtures can bring many positive attributes to a project, but optimizing the color and quality of the light from LEDs necessitates extra care. When we use LED products from several different manufacturers, we need to visually compare all of the fixtures to be sure that the color of light is the same for all of them. It is not enough to simply read the catalogue cut sheets and assume that one 3000K 80CRI LED source will automatically match another.

Since we have been doing this for so long, we have a lot of knowledge that can help the architect, the engineer and the owner. Understanding the work process and being able to anticipate issues often helps the project save money. We tend to ask a lot of questions, and present the project team with many options from which they can choose.  We have found that this is the surest way to deliver the best design solution for each project.

A year on from the introduction of the Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) certification, the world’s first, international, evidence-based certification in architectural lighting design, and 6 months since the UNESCO International Year of Light, during which the industry gained some spotlight, is it just a matter of time until the profession is better recognised for the specific skills we contribute to the design process?

In any profession, it is unusual for a single event to completely change the way that people think. Rather, it is an accumulation of all of these changes, combined with an increasing recognition of lighting designers’ project work, that is helping our profession to grow.

What steps could we take as an industry to further raise the profile and perceived value of lighting design among our key creative partners and the wider community?

The growth as an industry is happening organically. Every event, every program, every award, every published article contributes to a greater awareness of what we do as a profession. Historically, owners thought that architects should provide the lighting design themselves. Early on, our conversations with architects and owners centered on the benefits of using a lighting designer and why we should be hired. Happily, the new generation of clients understands the lighting designer’s importance in the design process. Design publications, both print and online, which highlight interesting projects and discuss critical issues still do the best job of getting the word out about the value of what we do.

Thank you: Stephen D. Bernstein, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD) 

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